The sweet strains of a Puccini aria cut through the Saturday night clatter of the busy Italian restaurant in New York City, but it wasn't coming from the aging voice of the Sicilian baritone who was hired to belt out favorites like Funiculi-Funicula. It was a soprano whose crystal clear voice filled the room. Within moments all the ambient noise came to a halt. Diners stopped eating and talking, busboys stopped clearing tables, even the cooks came out of the kitchen.

Singing on the tiny stage was a skinny moon-faced waitress from Ohio. The Sicilian had heard she studied opera, so he invited her to join him, but what began as a duet ended in a solo as he too was mesmerized by the beauty of her voice. When she finished, the place thundered in applause, and I saw tears of gratitude glistening in her eyes. She had hit each note perfectly.

If only she had been able to do that when she auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera. But she had choked, allowing a seed of doubt to creep into her consciousness and thus her voice. She told me her story over a couple of drinks after work. It was the fall of 1984, and I was a fellow waiter at the restaurant; just another struggling artist in the city that never sleeps. She explained that she had gotten nervous during her audition and couldn't hit the high notes. She would get one more chance to audition, but she would have to wait an entire year.

I never found out if she made it; as a writer my art is portable, and a few months later I moved to a city where they still have a bedtime. I suspect she did, because that night she received proof—a vital beginning step.

The Edgar Cayce Readings remind us that "Mind is the builder," and what we focus on grows in our mind and is made manifest in the material.

Hence the life must be a purposeful one, with a purposeful experience and expression in its relationships. For, some laws are ever in evidence in the experience of those who take thought.

True, by taking thought there may be little added to the material, but the Mind is the builder. Hence the building in a purposeful manner becomes a manifested activity in any material experience, according to the spirit with which it is purposed through the will of the entity…

Then, never fear, never doubt self's abilities, even in material or mental aspects. For, the Spirit makes [one] unafraid, and guides in those directions that keep one in that way.

--Edgar Cayce reading 2464-2

Doubt is a silent killer. We transmit feelings of doubt to others through subtleties in our body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. It is picked up subconsciously by those with whom we communicate. Worse than that, we communicate it to ourselves, and it seeps into our performance. Doubt is the ultimate De-Motivator, and all too often it prevents us from even trying.

We all suffer doubt occasionally, and its cure is always the same: proof. Proof that we are indeed talented enough to do what we set out to do. And that proof doesn't need to be big to eliminate doubt. A series of little incidences can be just as effective as one big one.

I keep a journal—a log of my accomplishments. Both small and large are recorded there, because they all add up to reasons for believing in my abilities. It is especially important to log the little ones, because they are so easy to forget or overlook, and yet they carry tremendous weight when it comes to giving ourselves confidence.

You may say, "I'm just starting out; I have no accomplishments." That just means you're not looking in the right places. We all have successes, though some are more easily recognized than others.

Sometimes proof comes to us by comparing ourselves to others. Simply ask yourself, "Out of all the people who have ever lived, how many have attained what I want?" The sheer numbers alone will often be all the proof you need.

But beyond proof, we can fall back on faith. Some of the most successful people in the world had absolutely no proof that they could achieve their dreams. All they had was a strong desire and a belief in themselves. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."